Sydney: Australia's stand-in captain Ricky Ponting has said he is still worth his place in the ODI team despite a run of four consecutive single-digit scores to begin the triangular series. Following an outstanding Test series against India, Ponting has struggled for touch in the limited-overs matches, and is now saddled with the extra responsibility of captaincy while Michael Clarke recovers from a hamstring strain.
Despite his poor run and horrid night for the hosts against Sri Lanka at the SCG, Ponting said he was still an important component of the team as one of the senior players from whom a transitional squad must learn.
"I think I am, but you'd better ask the selectors what they think about that," Ponting said. "My last four games have not been what they would have liked, but I guess if the selectors were thinking that way already then they probably wouldn't have picked me for the start of the series.
"There are still a few senior players around the side and they made it clear to the younger guys at the start of the summer that it was vital they gain a little bit of experience around them. But saying that, it's not just reputation that's going to get you picked. You have to score runs, that's what it's all about. I know that as well as anyone."
When asked whether or not he was entering another extended difficult patch, having waited 33 Test innings between centuries prior to the New Year's match against India in Sydney, a look of exasperation flashed across Ponting's face as he considered the possibility.
"Hopefully I'm not starting again with that," he said. "I can't run away from what's happened. It's been four single-figure scores in four games. If I look at the way I've trained in the last few weeks, yesterday is the best session I've had in a long time.
"I felt as sharp as I have all summer, but I've got to find a way to get some runs. If I'm out cheaply we're 2 for 20-odd and we've been that in just about every game we've played."
Ponting's team rounded off a poor night by confirming that Clarke would not be fit in time for Sunday's match against India in Brisbane. The Tasmania captain, George Bailey, has been pulled out of a Sheffield Shield fixture against Queensland in Hobart in order to join the squad as batting cover.
Mickey Arthur, the coach and selector, said Bailey's inclusion was necessary after Mitchell Marsh was forced out of the squad by back stress fractures, and to ensure Clarke was given adequate time to recover.
"While it is not ideal having to take George away from the Sheffield Shield match currently underway in Hobart, we feel it is important we have sufficient batting cover in our squad," Arthur said. "This selection is reward for George's excellent form with Tasmania this season and recognition that the National Selection Panel consider him the next batsman in line for Australian one-day selection."
The Victoria left-arm spinner Jon Holland is being kept with the squad alongside Xavier Doherty, following the latter's struggle with back spasms leading into the Sydney ODI.